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No Brexit nerves, but smaller builders fear skills shortages

Words: Huw Morris

Small and medium-sized builders reported rising workloads in the second quarter of this year amid mounting concerns over skills shortages and higher costs.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said the proportion of its members reporting higher workloads grew from 32 per cent to 41 per cent in the second three months of 2018. Those reporting lower workloads fell by 18 per cent from 24 per cent.

In the next three months, the share of firms expecting higher workloads dropped by three points to 46 per cent while 13 per cent of respondents anticipate lower workloads, up from ten per cent.

Employment rose faster compared with three months earlier with 21 per cent of businesses saying their workforce went up from 18 per cent while 64 per cent reported no change.

However, two-thirds are struggling to hire bricklayers and 60 per cent are struggling to hire carpenters and joiners. More than three-quarters of builders reported increasing material prices.

“Despite this optimism, the sector should not be too complacent because strong headwinds remain in place,” said FMB chief executive Brian Berry. “The sector is still contending with rising skills shortages. The latest evidence reveals that nearly all of the key occupations have become harder to recruit in the second quarter of this year compared with the previous three months.

“Bricklayers continue to be the hardest to recruit with nearly two-thirds of firms struggling to hire them, and carpenters not far behind. Without guaranteed access to skilled EU workers, there is a real possibility that skills shortages will further intensify.”

Image credit | iStock